(QCOSTARICA) The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos (Aresep) – Public Services Regulatory Authority – has spoken, ordering water utilities to enter into payment arrangements with users affected by excessive charges and cannot cut service in the process.
In addition, it has put measures in place for utilities to guarantee the quality and quantity of the water that reaches homes, especially in these times of pandemic.
In its audit visits, the Aresep found that Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA) continues with excessive charges that have not been justified and that complaints were received about the delay in the formalization of payment arrangements.
The Regulador General, Roberto Jiménez, said: “We are concerned about the situation of hundreds of families who at this time of the pandemic still have no response from the utilities, particularly AyA. We call for the timely attention of users and their efforts”.
Besides the AyA, the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia (ESPH) – Heredia water utility – the Aresep has its sights focused on these utillities in particular.
The order is for the AyA and ESPH to inform the ARESEP within ten business days about the payment arrangements they have made, for each geographic region, indicating the total amount and the terms granted.
If you will recall, a few months back hundreds of complaints were made public of excessive water bills, some up to 10 times or more, including several reports of home water bills in the hundreds of thousands of colones.
The AyA, mainly, first responded that the billing was correct and justified, to quickly admit an error in billing.
In the early months of the pandemic, the AyA stopped reading water meters. Monthly bills were based on average consumption (typically for the last 12 months). When meter reading resumed, the utility billed its customers for the actual usage from the older meter reading (months back) to the most recent but did not take into account the averaged billing amounts.
The many customers affected by this practice complained. For many the billing returned to normal, for others not so much, to, well, really nothing as the disputed billing continues open and unsettled and not the utility is threatening to cut water service, though the complaint still stands.
One of those affected customers is yours truly. The May billing was ¢35,000 colones for 39 cubic meters of water usage when the average for the past 12 months was 12. The previous bills were paid, the May bill was adjusted to ¢29,000 colones, post billings have resumed to normal.
The new complaint (for the ¢29,000) was received but has yet to be settled, the utility changing the pay by date to December 31, 2020, but not the amount. Read more here.